What a day, as they say. On the last day of winter, I decided to plant my hummingbird and butterfly garden. But first, I needed to make a long trip to the Disneyland of nurseries forty minutes to the east. It is truly a theme park that goes on acre after acre. I don't know why I decided to go on a Saturday when all the excitement was just half a mile away at the Festival on the Boulevard. I'll not refer to it as an art festival any longer. If anything, it is an anti-art festival. . . but I explained all that yesterday. Still, the crowd's the thing. Sitting at a sidewalk table with a glass of wine and watching the hillbillies and the Housewives of New Town and all the other interlopers dressed as if they were either going to a redneck cocktail party or dinner on a cruise ship in their TikTok/reality t.v. idea of dressing cool is fun its own self.
But I won't lie. I just like watching the girls. I know, I know. . . it is a horrible and demented confession, but who knows, there might be trannies, too.
Right. I'll quit.
I got a quick glimpse of it, though, as I drove out to the road that would lead me to Flora World. At the crosswalk by Country Club College which lies directly across from the Boulevard, the sidewalks and corners were crowded with anxious festival goers. There was a family with teenage girls, one wearing a white faux party dress with little white platform boots looking excitedly around like she was about to see Elvis. Her sensible younger sister was less dramatic and more beautiful. One woman took my breath, though, waiting to cross on her bicycle in a thin summer dress and a woven, floppy sun hat. Oh my, oh my, it has bee too long, dear sweet lord. . . .
The light turned green and I turned in the direction away from all the fun. What was wrong with me, I wondered? But this seems to be a pattern. I've often done my spring yard work on this day when everyone else was out happy and free. The sky was bright and the sun was shining, and I was traveling to the hinterlands in heavy traffic with morons and idiots driving slowly side by side like church goers holding hands. I screamed. I made hand gestures like some madman.
"Stop it. Just stop it. Why are you doing this. Be a sweet boy. You're a sweet boy."
"O.K. I'm a sweet boy. I'm a sweet boy. I'm a sweet boy."
But the mantra came out with a sneer. It didn't sound sweet. It sounded sarcastic.
"Try it again. Smile when you say it. Just try."
Don't worry. I often have these sort of conversations with myself. I have to work at controlling my temper and my anger sometimes. I realized that I was sour this day. I was a very sour man.
My mother's house was on the way to the nursery, so I decided just to swing by and say hi. I'd already called her to see if she wanted to go with me, but she said she and my cousin had other plans. Fine, my sarcastic inner voice was saying. But the sweet boy thought to just stop by.
When I got to the house, they were already gone. Back on the highway, I thought to call her.
"Hello mom. Where are you."
I could hear my cousin talking in the background, but my mother didn't respond. I asked again. Nothing. Sour CS was gaining the advantage. I hung up the phone.
Traffic did not improve.
When I got to the nursery, there were a thousand cars. I had to park far, far away from the entrance. Why would I think to come on a Saturday, the first weekend of spring, when I could easily come during the week? Again, I chalked it up to some masochistic characteristic in me. Sometimes I just can't allow myself to enjoy the group thing.
But as I walked through the parking lot and into the nursery, people were smiling and saying hello. They were enjoying themselves. Me? I wondered. Why am I such an asshole? Quit it, boy. Be sweet. Be sweet.
I walked around the flora park lost. There were millions of miles of plants, flowers on tables and potted bushes of all kinds on the ground in neatly organized squares. Turn left, turn right. I couldn't remember what I had come for. Flowers, yes. . . but there were miles and miles of flowers.
At the far end, I found the butterfly garden. Yes. I remembered. This is what I came for. But what was I buying. I couldn't remember the names of the plants. I began reading the descriptive cards in front of the squares. Blue flowers. Red flowers. Yellow flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds liked them all. Milkweed. That was one. But I had to get the right kind. I found a woman in a nursery shirt who was walking with purpose somewhere.
"Could I ask you a question?"
She looked at me like I was driving slow in the fast lane.
"Do you have giant pentas?"
"If we do, they would be over there." She waved in a general direction of a couple acres of flowers."
"What about milkweed?"
Again she gave a general wave.
"Do you have the kind that are good for monarchs. I read that I was planting the kind that killed them."
"They are all good."
"Really? Why am I thinking that there are some. . . ."
"Somebody wrote that, but its bullshit. They are all good."
She was done with me.
"O.K. Thanks," I said sheepishly.
I found a cart and walked "over there."
Oh, man. I filled the cart up with three kinds of milkweed, two varieties of pentas, lantana and salvia and other unknown things, spicy jatropha and plumbago and two varieties of lavender. There may have been other genus and species on my cart as well. I was jumbled and confused, so I did what I always do in such cases--I just got it all.
When I went to check out, I wanted to get some Milorganite, but I couldn't remember the name. I looked high and low across the myriad bags of specialized fertilizers and plant starters, but I couldn't find any. I tried asking one of the guys who worked there for it, but I froze up. I couldn't remember the name.
"It's from Milwaukee. They cook human sewage. I can't remember the name."
He stared at me.
"I don't know."
"Shit. I always put a handful in the hole when I put a new plant in the ground because it won't burn it."
He just shook his head half woefully, half amused.
I got in line to check out.
Sticker shock. WT bloody F?!?!
I wheeled my flat cart overflowing with plants back across the long, bumpy parking lot to the end where I had left my car.
The drive home was no easier than the drive there. The day was getting away from me and I still had to go to Home Depot to get a new hose (the yardman cut mine) and some Milorganite. Yes, I remembered the name when I got back into the car.
I decided to drop off my plants at home first. When I got them out of the car and onto the ground, I realized I had overbought considerably for the small garden spot I have. Jesus Christ, I thought, who's a dumb fuck?
Traffic to the Home Depot was worse. Far worse.
I wandered around looking for Milorganite for half an hour, I think. Of course, I couldn't find anyone working there. When someone with an orange vest sees you coming, they run in the other direction. If you do catch them, they always say, "That's not my department. Let me see if I can get somebody for you."
Finally, I cornered some befuddled guy who didn't look like he worked in the nursery, but he pulled out his Home Depot phone and typed in "Milorganite."
"It says here its on backorder. We can't even get it."
"O.K. Thanks. Hey. . . wait. . . where are those garden hoses that collapse flat. . . you know the ones?"
He pointed to some thick, heavy hoses.
"No, you know. . . the kind that roll up compact. . . uh. . . they're flat. . . you know what I mean?"
He waved toward the inside of the store and named an aisle number. I remembered seeing something called "Black Cow", a manure product. I could probably use that instead of the Milorganite. Hell, shit is shit, right?
I went up and down the aisles twenty times trying to find it again.
After an hour, I checked out. I had a hose, some cow shit, and a box of Miracle Grow.
It was well after noon now and I hadn't eaten. All I'd had was coffee. I wanted something bad, something I never eat. A hamburger sounded good, but it would take an hour to get one at the Shake Shack or the other premiere burger place. Fuck. I stopped at the grocery store. Now. . . here comes a sad confession. Look, now, skip ahead to the next paragraph if you are tired of a certain kind of whining that I do. Look away. Go. I hope you have. I hope you are not here. I bought a beer that Ili liked, a light lager that is good on a hot summer's day. And a lime. And then. . . fuck it. . . I bought a pack of hot dogs and a pack of hot dog buns. I was shaky with it. I needed to eat.
When I got home, I fired up the grill right away, then I opened a Land Shark and cut the lime. Ah, sweet, sweet Jesus. . . yes. I cut the buns and put them on the top rack of the grill, then threw down the dogs. I pulled out the ketchup and the sweet relish and the mustard. I have hot dogs twice a year with my mother. I never, ever make them alone. But here I was, looking at the would-be butterfly garden drinking beer and eating hot dogs on toasted buns. I was sweaty and about to get dirty, but hot dogs and beer have never tasted so good.
I decided to take a nap.
But I didn't sleep long. When I got up and got my gardening tools, it was three o'clock. The temperature was in the nineties. It was ninety one on the last day of winter. I needed to get my plants into the ground.
I set them down in their pots back to front according to the height they would supposedly grow. Then I began to dig. On the first hole I realized I needed to hook up the new hose. I got the cow manure and threw a couple handfuls in. Then I slid the plant out of its container, cut the root bed up with my knife to make sure it was not root bound, placed it in the hole and covered it with the dug up dirt.
Again. And again. Covered in sweat and dirt, I tiptoed around the small garden trying not to step on any existing plants, the big bag of cow shit always on the other side of the garden somehow. I don't know how long it took me, but finally I ran out of space and couldn't put any more in the ground. Not there. I left the lavender in the pots behind the little decorative iron fencing that Ili had bought when we first planted the garden years ago. I wasn't sure if I would plant them there or not yet. I would have a think. And a beer. And a shower. But first, I sat and looked at the garden. Sadly, I realized it was half a tribute.
"You're a real sap," I thought. "You are pitiful. . . and you won't be able to keep your mouth shut, will you? I know you. You will have to squeal."
In the years of solitude, I've developed the habit of internal monologue as well as dialogue. Perhaps I've developed a split personality.
It was time for a shower. I scrubbed the black dirt from under my nails and off my filthy feet. I dried and moisturized and ran the blow dryer over my silly blond locks.
And then I made a drink.
I turned on my new mosquito repellent machine, clean and tired, and. . . wait! First a picture!
I sent it to my friends. Of course I did. And a photo of my new garden, too.
"Oh, pal, I am feeling every bit my age and all my infirmities after planting the garden today."
I meant planting it alone. It is the first time, really, in many years. I have not redone the garden in the Time of Covid. The sun was dipping behind the tallest trees. I was spent and maudlin, but happy.
My travel/art buddy responded to my garden pic and aged complaint.
"That's what blond dye will do to you."
Nice. He was getting ready to go to the Saturday Night Festival party that I usually go to. Shit. Fuck. I had not gotten an invitation. I had asked my travel friend a week ago if Stan was having the party this year, but he never responded. I had not even thought about the party, really, having not gone for two years. Now, however, I was sad. I wanted to sit out in his magnificently sculptured back yard in front of the little stage where the jazz band would play. I wanted to eat his catered bbq dinner and drink his liquor. I wanted to walk around the inside of his lovely house that was an art museum extraordinaire.
I was too tired to cook. And I was sad. I'd only eaten the two hot dogs all day. I needed take out. Chickin' Lickin' for me tonight. It was dark. It was time for t.v.
I watched "Day of the Dog." I won't bother you with my take on it now. I am plumb wrote out. It had been a weird day that started sour and ended sadly. But somewhere in the middle, I planted a new garden. There was that, at least. There was something.